Eru is a 62-year-old Māori man living in the South Island. A head injury from a road accident 12 years ago ended his working life as a shearer. He is a father and grandfather.


I started smoking when I was about 11 or 12. Mum and dad smoked, all my uncles, all the neighbours smoked and some of my friends in the high school were experimenting and learning to smoke. So, I thought “I’ll give it a try, too”.

Everybody smoked back then

Well, tailor-mades were a different story if we were in a pub or somewhere, or on a mission doing something, but it wasn’t what we’d smoke at work in forestry or on the farm or shearing or anything. Other people did, but it was tobacco. 

I can remember very clearly the old miners down the pubs, and they’d be talking with a rollie still in their mouth. It would have gone out, but they’d be talking away and they’d pull it out when they had a beer, put it back in even if it was out and carry on talking. Then, they’d give it a wipe if it was someone else’s time to have a yarn, and light it up. It was hard case. 

My wife smoked, though not as much as me. She would mainly smoke in social situations. And, all my kids smoke. They’re all adults now. I think they started just a little bit older than I was when I started. I think they started at college. I started at primary school. Things change.

Smoking now

I don’t really count how many I have. If I’m busy, I’m quite happy just to leave it alone. It’s when I’m doing nothing, or when I’m thinking about something, then I’ll have a cigarette. I smoke rolls. I’ve just bought a 30 gram. It’ll last me for 7 days ’till my next Support Living thing goes in the bank. I’ve got to make it last for 7 days. When I was shearing, I could smoke a 50 gram in 3 or 4 days, not a problem. But that was 12-plus years ago. It was big money, shearing. I’m not in that situation anymore so I really want to stop, but it’s not gonna happen.

I’m not smoking as much compared to what I smoked 10 years ago. Still, if I wake up in the night to go for a piss, I’ll have a few puffs of my bloody butt beside the bed before I go back to sleep. Tobacco’s not as good as what it used to be. 

Quit attempts?

I’ve only stopped smoking when I got crook a few times. It was on my mind to quit, for my health and, of course, because of my financial situation over the last 10 years.

The last 4 or 5 years, since what’s-her-bloody-handle put the price of tobacco up to try and get everybody to stop smoking, it’s become a financial struggle for everybody. But it’s just a hard habit to kick. I slowed down. But I could not stop.

Healthcare support to stop smoking

My doctor put me on mint-flavoured chewing gum plus the patches. I’ve been on this for a couple of years off and on. The patches knock me around a bit –gives me headaches. I’d be feeling like, shit, I’m on a trip here or something close to it. My tummy used to get upset too, but not bad. I could handle that.  It was just the bloody headaches. At first, I thought it was because of my head injury. But, no, I’m sure it wasn’t. 

I was quite keen not to have a bloody cigarette. It did put me off the thought of having one. But in the end, I’d just have a cigarette to get rid of the headache. I think it affects different people different ways.

I’ve got a new doctor. He’s more or less saying what my other doctor was saying. He said, “There’s a programme here if you’re interested.” I just shortcut it by saying, “I’ve tried it, I’ve slowed down, and I’ll get in touch with you if I am interested”. He didn’t ask me anymore. 

Tried homegrown or black market tobacco?

I tried homegrown once or twice, just friends gave me a puff of it or a handful now and again just for me to experiment with it. As far as I’m concerned, a cigarette’s a cigarette. 

I haven’t tried black market tobacco. I’d like to, of course everybody would like to. I do know that some moves around, it’s on the market. But I know more about getting the other stuff than what I do about getting tobacco illegally. Marijuana is easier to get. 

Tried vaping?

My neighbours do it. The old girls do it, the old fellas won’t. Some are quite happy with it. I don’t wanna get into that. I can’t see myself getting any satisfaction out of it. I could be wrong, of course, unless I try it.  

I think it’s got to be better for you. It would have to be, otherwise it wouldn’t be here now. But, I don’t know the chemical situation of it. 

Bans on where people can smoke…

I’m living in a council flat in a block of 1-person flats. I’m the youngest one here. I smoke inside and yes, I’m breaking the rules. Everybody here smokes and breaks the rules. 

The law banning smoking in the car while you’ve got children in there is a bit odd. Smoking in your kitchen, smoking in your own house with children, that’s a big no-no for all my children and my grandchildren. Everybody goes outside. And, that was happening way before the ban on smoking in the car when you’ve got the children inside. The parents would’ve worked it out at home, in the kitchen or in the house with the children there. They’re not going to then go, “Oh, let’s go for a drive and roll up a cigarette” when the car is smaller than your house and your kitchen. Common-sense from parents should’ve kicked in pretty quickly without them having to be told.  

Taxing tobacco

It goes up $2 or $3 dollars every 6 months, I thought. I don’t see what the government’s getting out of it. They’ve been getting too much out of it from day 1.  

Smokefree 2025

I heard a bit about that when the price of tobacco went up from what’s-her-bloody-handle. I thought, I don’t wanna listen anymore about it. Although I can understand it’s a good idea, it would be very hard for me.

Let’s not forget 100 years ago we watched black and white movies and Clark Gable and whoever, and these heroes had cigarettes in their mouth. It was just the way life was then. A few of the old people, they’re older than me, they still accept it as such. They’re not gonna change their ways in a hurry. 

For those of us from the 1940s, 1950s, when change was much slower – some of us who are still smoking, we’re having trouble getting to the stage they are at in 2021.

Some of the old ones over 70 or 75, they’re still having a cigarette – just 2 or 3 a day. They’ve probably got about 10 or 15 years left some of them, or even less than that, but they’re quite happy having a smoke and yeah... if the police come along and say ‘you’re not smoking anymore’, they’d be quite happy to just roll over and cark it.  

Legalising cannabis

I voted no because I don’t know what’d happen if cannabis was legalised. I wasn’t in a situation where I could understand. 



2 months later…

I was down south for about 4 days catching up with the old freezing works and shearing mates. I’m still smoking. I can slow down when I’m by myself, but catching up with mates – it doesn’t slow down much at all.

We’ve all slowed down our smoking compared to 20-30 bloody years ago. We’re all in our 60’s now. Some of them have stopped smoking. It’s not only a financial situation, but also a health situation. They're coughing too much, so they’ve slowed right down, or stopped.

I’ve been on rollies for a while. But our financial situation gets to where instead of spending $60 on a packet of 30-gram tobacco, I would rather spend $28 on a packet of 20. I break them down and it will last a long time and slow my smoking down.  Out of a 20-pack I can get about 45. I try to roll them as thin as I can to get about 8 nice puffs. A 30-gram packet would last me 7 days. I probably smoke about 8 or 9 of them a day. I just want a puff, then put it out and fuck off and do something else. But then it’s there – and I only light it up and have a puff because it’s there. I will make them last as long as I can and can stretch it out for 7 days.

If I get up during the night to go for a piss it could be 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, and before I go back to sleep I’ll light my butt up, have a few puffs and go to sleep. Then I’d probably wake up another couple of hours later, have another piss and have another puff. I wouldn’t smoke a whole cigarette. It doesn’t make sense to smoke a whole cigarette. I’ve got it beside my bed. It’s just habit. So, I’m breaking the rental rules, smoking inside. But yeah, there’s thousands of us do it. 

Very low-nicotine tobacco (denicotinisation)

I haven’t heard anything. I try and avoid listening to the stop-smoking stuff.

I’ll give it a try if it is half the price for a 30-gram.  I’d have to try and have a puff of it first before I could say anything about it. It’s just something that I don’t know about.

I used to smoke ‘buds’. I used to grow my own. Now, I’m quite happy just having a toke of bloody cabbage, that’s enough for my fucking head. I still like a cigarette after smoking a lot of cabbage. 

If the price is quite low, I’d give it a damn good try. But, will I still get satisfaction?  If not, the body is not going to accept it. It won’t work with me, I’m afraid. I want a cigarette, end of story – a real cigarette. I’ve slowed down, but I can’t change. I’m trying little bits of this and that, even home-grown tobacco and that’s alright. I’m rolling big fat, fucking joints. 

If there’s no satisfaction –what it boils down to is I might as well stand on a chimney on somebody’s house and smell their fucking coal fire or wood fire. I’ll ignore it for a start off and that’s as far as I’d go. I just wouldn’t be interested in it. I’d try and find home-grown tobacco.

Hopefully, it may not happen. Maybe I may be able to stop, but it’s not something that’s going to happen tomorrow. I love the fact that I could, but what it boils down to is my way of thinking, just who I am, can I do it? I’m just damn happy, and all my doctors for years have been happy, that I’ve slowed down.

It’s on my mind to give up. It has been for quite a while now. I’ve got to stop because some of my grandchildren are very young. So, I smoke outside.  They know Granddad smokes, Nannie smokes, Uncle smokes. We don’t do it in front of them, but they can see us outside so straight away they’re thinking, oh I’ll try that one day.  So, I walk further away from the window so they don’t see me having a smoke.  They can’t see me, but they can still see a puff of smoke. So, I’ve got to think like that. That’s why I really want to stop, so there’s no smoke at all unless I’m smoking bloody fish heads or something. I don’t want it to get into their mind that if it’s good enough for Grandad – good enough for Koro ­– then when I grow up, I’ll do what Koro does. But, I find it very hard to change things at my age and I’m only in my 60's. I’d find it very, very hard. Because I have a mental attitude, if I haven’t got a cigarette, I’m going to be pretty grumpy.



4 months later…

We’re having another lockdown for few more days. Otherwise, things are pretty good. My youngest daughter just had my latest grandchild – a girl. I went up to see them. They’re all in good nick. That was her third. She had her last one at the start of our first lockdown last year. He’s just over 12 months now. It was a bit of a scary situation because we were all in lockdown then and I couldn’t get up there to see them for quite a while. So, another one born in lockdown.

On top of that, last year a few of my close friends I’ve known for quite a while decided to go to the next world. One died in the river, and one died through a cancer. We couldn’t get to them to say our final farewells. So, yeah, it’s a bit of a nuisance, this Covid-19.

I usually go down south about once every month or 2 months to catch up with family.

Still smoking?

Oh shit, yes. I get up usually about 4 o’clock in the morning. My bloody pills put me to sleep early at night. I can be awake about 1 or 2 in the morning. The worst part – that’s my first bloody cigarette! I’ve really got to try hard to ignore it and do something else or try to go back to sleep. If that doesn’t work, turn the TV on – but there’s bugger all on free TV that hour of the morning. Read a book, and here’s the best part – that’ll put me to sleep in half an hour, three-quarters of an hour, ha ha. Then I’ll get up again, go to the toilet and I’ll light my cigarette butt that I’d bloody put out, and have a couple of puffs. I’ll come back to it half an hour later.  I can make one last an hour now, so, I’m quite happy with that.

Usually Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday I have quite a few beers. I used to smoke a whole cigarette until that’s gone. But now it’s just a couple of puffs, have a beer, get outside, bugger around. As long as I’m doing something… it’s when I’m sitting doing nothing, having a beer and looking out the window and nothing’s happening, I can smoke a whole cigarette.


My money will be in tomorrow night. I keep looking at my tobacco just the last 2 days, just to cut down to make it last.

I write down what I’ve got: $5 for my phone, $5 cash if I want to catch the bus to go to the supermarket, a 30-gram of tobacco, a packet of blue Zig Zags and green filters, that comes to $76.90. But if I go to the supermarket I’d come back with a beer as well, ha ha. So yeah, I just go to the dairy next door.

Health professional support to stop smoking

Every 3 months I’ve got to go and see my doctor and he’s, blah, blah, blah, blah. I had a problem, coughing a bit too much — more than I normally do. And he said, “You’re still smoking?” I said, “Yes.” He puts all these things on my chest and said, “There’s nothing wrong with your chest, all I can hear is same as every smoker that has been smoking for so many years. It’s the same cough you get at your age – it’s gone to your chest. How you doing with your Habitrol patches and gum?” I said, “I gave them up. They give me a headache and they are very uncomfortable.” He said, “Do you want to try these?” I said, “I’ll give it a try”. It's called Champix. 

I’ve had them for a month and I’m still reading the instruction sheet. It’s got all the answers and questions. It says:
‘It’s used to help you stop smoking.’
‘How I should take it - blah, blah, blah.’
Can you take other medicinesyes, the doctor knows that I’m on other medicines.’
And – this is the bit that upsets me – ‘What side effects might you notice.’
‘Suicidal thoughts’ – and I thought, holy fuck, they’re getting a bit hard here.
‘Mood changes, unusual behaviour or thinking, agitation.’
The recommendation is:
‘Tell your doctor immediately. Headaches, tiredness or weakness, trouble sleeping, strange dreams, dry mouth, change of taste, change of appetite, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, abdominal pain, farting, constipation, skin rash – tell your doctor if troublesome’.

Now, I don’t get suicidal thoughts or mood changes or unusual behaviour, but I’m always thinking. Agitation, very seldom get that. On the Habitrol I was getting headaches, tiredness, trouble sleeping – I still get that, strange dreams. But perhaps it’s coming out of my medication for my heart – all these other pills I’m taking? So, I’m a bit worried. I’m thinking shall I get onto this stuff or not?  I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while but then I’ve put it away. So, when I run out of tobacco, ha ha, I pull it out and have another look. But I don’t feel comfortable because of the side effects. That’s the bit that scares me. I don’t think I’m quite keen on going there. And, I’ve got to want to stop smoking first though, haven’t I? 


A few of me old neighbours, they’re on vape machines and they’re 10 to 20 years older than me. They’re not coughing and farting and carrying on because it’s not like a normal cigarette, they’re quite comfortable to it and they’ve stopped smoking tobacco. 

Smokefree 2025
What if cigarettes were only sold in pharmacies?

Would we have to have a note from our doctor? It’ll be a bit like when I was getting Habitrol chewing gum and patches from them, I’d imagine. Because getting it through my doctor, I’d pay a smidgen of the price.

If I had to go to the pharmacy, I’d expect a line-up of people there most of the time. Supermarkets are open all hours and dairies are open from perhaps 7 ’til   8 at night and they’re on the way to people’s work or coming back from work or just down the road. I don’t know. I’d have to think hard about that. I don’t think I’d be satisfied with it. I’d be getting my medication for my heart and everything else, and a 30-gram of Park Drive please, ha ha. No. I can’t believe it would work very well. It just doesn’t make sense to me. They might as well sell beer there as well, ha ha.

If you’re going to go in a shop and threaten and rob it, there’s more than just got to be tobacco there, isn’t it? They may as well get the drugs there as well. The price of tobacco is dearer than marijuana in jail. It has been since they stopped smoking tobacco in jail.

What they should do for dairy shops is put an alarm in that makes a big noise so the whole town can hear it, ha ha. Lock the front door, shoot out the back and lock that door and wait ’til the police arrive. Everybody on the whole block is going to hear this big siren and look to see where it’s coming from. If it’s the local chemist shop you might have 10 or 15 people witnessing the chap, or a couple of them, walking out of the shop: “They went in that direction! They hopped in a car.” It may help.  

Where should recreational cannabis be sold if legalised?

Shit, that’s a big step from now to there isn’t it? We talk about the referendum, my friends. We’re just busy growing our own. And just going to a tinny house and getting what we want, which is just marijuana, nothing else. 

R18 - that would be my first choice. I can only think of a bottle store. Hold on, vape places, you’ve got to be over 18 too. Shit! The tinny house is not going to like it, ha ha. If it can go that far, we’re allowed to make home brew, we’re allowed to grow our own tobacco – then we should be allowed to grow 2 or 3 marijuana plants in our own garden, not for supply or anything.

6 months later...

Everything’s all good. I had a weekend down south. We’ve got a property there. We had to tidy it up – the renters that were there were slow on doing everything. So we gave it a big tidy – took us all day. Quite a few of us went to tidy it up. So it’s on the market now. I enjoyed that weekend – not only to help the family out, but I caught up with 1 person. We sat down and drunk for 4 hours, and that was it.

Cigarettes per day 

I’ve never thought of counting my cigarettes that I smoke over a whole day. It depends how busy I am. I can just walk away from it and come back and have a puff later on. I spend a lot of time in the garden and when I go downtown to do some shopping, I don’t take smokes with me. Same with my phone – I leave it at home.

I’m really skilled at making 30 grams last 7 days. The worst people I see – some of them must be 10 or bloody 15 years older than me, and they knock on my door for a bloody smoke and I’m like, oh you’ve gotta stop that.

By 6:30pm Wednesday, I’m hanging out for a smoke. But the last 7 days, I’ve got a little bit left. I can buy a 30 gram and I’ve still got about 4 or 5 cigarettes left from last week.


I see my support person every Wednesday at 6:30pm. So I’ve got it organised – I write my shopping list out. I get a milk, a 30 gram of tobacco, packet of Zig-Zag’s papers, Green filters, a $5 phone top up for 60 minutes of talk for 7 days, and $10 cash for Thursday when I go do some shopping on the bus. So, I top up my bus card and it gives me $2 rides ‘til it runs out. That comes to $81.90. That’s why I go to the supermarket. The price difference with a pack of tobacco is probably about 30 or 40 cents. 

Intention to quit?

Oh, uh, not really. It’s just going to be a big hassle for me. The Champix – well, I didn’t go back to the doctor to talk about it. I just haven’t touched it. The Champix, as well the Habitrol chewing gum and those patches, are in the cabinet beside the TV. I’m starting to think one day we’ll get there, but it’s not happened.

Health professional support to stop smoking 

I’ve only been there when I got my two shots. Vaccination shots. Wherever I go outside to the dairy or downtown, the mask is on. It’s hard for me to breathe, so I just pop it down a bit whenever I go into a shop, every shop – everywhere I go where I’m close to the public, get my medicines. It’s just a habit now. That’s the way it is.

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